I Wish This Was is a participatory public art project that explores the process of civic engagement. Inspired by the limited dynamics of community meetings where the loudest people ruled, as well as the volume of abandoned buildings, Chang posted thousands of “I wish this was ___” stickers on vacant buildings across New Orleans to invite residents to easily share their hopes for these spaces. She also provided boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city. Infusing street art, urban planning, and ethnographic research, the project reveals the hopes, dreams and colorful imaginations across different neighborhoods, challenges barriers to participation, and provokes new insights for what New Orleans might yet become.
Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a place to sit and talk, a city without theft, a place to buy flowers for my baby, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, your dream, Heaven. The project allows residents to provide civic input on-site and enables introverts like Chang to share just as much with their community. Part of the Ethnographic Terminalia exhibition and featured in the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, this experiment became the prototype for Neighborland, a nationwide toolkit for civic projects co-founded by Chang, Dan Parham, and Tee Parham. Those interested in using the stickers are welcome to purchase revised versions here or print their own by downloading these files. Stickers should be made of vinyl, not paper, so they can easily be removed without damaging property.
2010, New Orleans. Vinyl stickers, permanent markers, vacant buildings. 4.5″ x 3″ each. To those concerned about the subjunctive mood (“I wish this was” vs. “I wish this were”): Long discussions on the topic suggest that both usages are acceptable. This project is about striking up a casual conversation in the city.